Thursday, May 9, 2013

Is Your Olive Oil Really Olive Oil?

I'm still in shock as I write this so if I seem rather rummy, I am.  This news I read today really rocked my world and has my head spinning with questions of how I'm going to handle this situation.  I just found out that almost all of the olive sold in this country is not even real olive oil but rather a blend of other oils with minor traces of low quality olive  oil.  Can you believe it or did you already know?

How can this be?  I was upset enough when I found out that most of the honey sold in the supermarkets is nothing more than corn syrup, but this is even worse!  I mean, raw local honey isn't hard to get your hands on even if you live in the city.  You can purchase it at farmers markets, natural health stores, through co-ops and directly from beekeepers.  But who knows or lives near an olive oil farmer?  I don't know about you but I am tired of being duped and scammed and lied to!  Here is the link so you can read for yourself about the great olive oil hoax we've all been a victim of...

After reading this article how do you feel about olive oil?  Will you continue to purchase it in the grocery store or will you find a reputable source?  I use "olive oil" a lot in my cooking for its health benefits and in my herbal beauty products, so I depend on quality, which I believed I was getting with my expensive brand of organic extra virgin olive oil.  Now that I know better I will buy my olive oil from Mountain Rose Herbs, and you can too, simply by clicking on the banner on my home page.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this issue.  Will this change your oil buying habits or will you continue to purchase the same oil?  Let me know what you think by leaving a comment!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Nettle Vinegar To Combat Allergies

I don't know about you, but I and many people I know are suffering with seasonal allergies right now.  Pollen counts are high and bits of cotton float off the cottonwood trees, making some of us downright miserable.  First the eyes get itchy and red, then the throat gets tight and scratchy and last but not least the respiratory system jumps on the bandwagon to make breathing difficult and creating a dry cough that upsets the mucus membranes in your throat and just generally wears you out.  It may seem ironic that even though plants are causing me grief they are the first thing I look to when I want to relieve symptoms fast without taking prescriptions or even over the counter Diphenhydramine (Benadryl).  In the case of allergies the plant that soars among the rest for allergy relief is Stinging Nettle.  Instead of drinking Nettle tea every day, which can be a hassle when you work or just have a busy schedule, its easy to make a nice Nettle vinegar that you can take daily in a tablespoon with warm water to greatly relieve your allergy symptoms.

If you know you are prone to seasonal allergies it is a good idea to start dosing yourself with Nettle a good 4 to 6 weeks before Spring.  This will help prevent the onset of symptoms and should help ease the severity of symptoms if and when they hit.  Nettle is not only good for allergies but it is a powerhouse of nutrition, boasting so many vitamins and minerals they are too many to count here.  Preserving Nettle in vinegar is a tasty way to get in not only your medicine but a multivitamin too!

Making the Nettle vinegar is easy.  In fact its dummy proof!  It is a fun project to do with your children, especially if you can harvest fresh Nettle from your own yard or other organic source of Nettle.  The most important rule in harvesting Nettle is to wear gloves.  Nettle has small hairs under it's leaves that are actually like small needles, injecting a painful dose of "venom" (for lack of a  better word) that will leave a stinging rash on your hands.  Thus the nickname Stinging Nettle.  Believe it or not, some people (me included!) purposely sting themselves with Nettle in order to reduce inflammation in painful joints.  But that is a whole other story that deserves its own blog.  For now, just beware of the stinging leaves when you harvest Nettle and you will be fine.

To make a good medicinal vinegar you will need a large amount of fresh leaves, enough to fill a quart sized mason jar when all chopped up.  After you've filled your mason jar with the chopped nettle pour in enough organic apple cider vinegar to cover the Nettle and fill the jar.  Shake your mixture vigorously and place it in a cool place in your kitchen away from direct sunlight.  Shake it several times daily for 2 to 4 weeks.  After 2 weeks you can do a taste test to determine if the flavor is palatable to you.  The longer you infuse the Nettle in vinegar the better medicine you will get from it, but for some Nettle is an acquired taste.  Once you've determined that your vinegar is done you simply strain it and pour it into a bottle or jar with a tight fitting cork or lid.

When I strain my vinegar I line a strainer with cheesecloth and place it over a large measuring cup.  After I have strained the vinegar I pour it into a jar and let it sit for a few hours, allowing any leftover herbal material to settle on the bottom.  Pour the vinegar back into the measuring cup and pour out the sediment at the bottom.  Now pour your clean, filtered vinegar back into the jar and you have a lovely Nettle vinegar you can take daily by the tablespoon.  Your vinegar will make a great marinade, salad dressing or just plain medicine.

If you don't have access to fresh Nettle you can use dried Nettle which can be purchased at Mountain Rose Herbs, a wonderful provider of herbs and herbal products online.  You can visit and buy products at Mountain Rose Herbs via the banner on my homepage.  When making vinegar with dried Nettle you will only want to fill the mason jar 1/2 to 3/4 full when you pour in the apple cider vinegar.  Dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh herbs, therefore you don't need to use as much.

Now that you know how to do it I challenge you to make your own Nettle vinegar.  If you don't suffer from seasonal allergies I'll bet you know someone who does.  If you have access to organic or wild Nettle, be a hero and share this wonderful cure with friends and relatives!

I would love to hear about your own experience with Nettles!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Ailment No One Wants To Talk About

Though it is not a fun subject or something we discuss with our friends, many people suffer from Constipation and will turn to dangerous laxatives to relieve their suffering.  Abnormal bowel habits can result from many things including (but certainly not limited to) stress, change of eating habits, medical illness and medications.  Constipation is a miserable condition to suffer through and I have to admit I've been a victim myself.  Luckily, nature, our wonderful provider of medicine and food, offers easy, gentle remedies that work as well, if not better, than what modern medicine has to offer and are much safer and better for your body.  I find these two remedies help immensely and save me from taking laxatives, which can cause cramping and griping pains in the gut, not to mention other problems.

Smooth Move Bran:
1 cup applesauce
1 cup coarse unprocessed bran
3/4 cup prune juice

Directions: Combine ingredients, mixing well.  Mixture will be pasty.  Keep in a tightly covered container in your fridge.  Take 1-2 tbsp of mixture daily followed by 1 full 8 oz. glass of water.  Within one week your bowels should be back to normal.  If the constipation persists try the treatment for one more week but take 2-3 tbsp of mixture daily.  Drink lots of water and avoid constipating foods.  This should do the trick!  By the way, it tastes great!

Flaxseed Glop:
Add 2 tbsp. of flaxseed to 3 qts. boiling water.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  Cool and strain into container.  Take 2 oz. every morning with juice or water.  Taken on a regular basis this will keep you regular too!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Look Younger In Minutes!

I hate wrinkles!  Therefore I have found some great natural treatments to help my skin look and feel younger.  I would feel guilty if I did not share these simple anti-aging remedies with you!

Here is a good old fashioned recipe for an instant face lift, great for that special night out!  You probably have the main ingredient in your medicine cabinet.  This will leave your face feeling more tight and lifted.  I have also included a quick fix for those awful crow's feet that appear around out eyes.

Instant Face Lift:
Take generous a amount of Milk of Magnesia , probably about 2 tbsp (this is the best use for this laxative you will ever find!) and spread over face and neck.  Allow to dry for 20-30 minutes.  Warm up a small amount of olive oil in a pan.  When the time is up, use a bit more MOM on face with water to rinse.  Apply warm olive oil and wait 5 minutes.  Splash face with cold water and apply your regular moisturizer.  You will look five years younger and your skin will have a rosy youthful glow!

Instant Crow's Feet Minimizer:
Whip one egg white until frothy.  Spread generously under eyes and crow's feet areas.  Allow to dry completely.  Rinse gently and pat dry.  Apply olive oil or eye cream to follow up.  Your eyes will appear younger for a few hours, just right for that night out dancing or that class reunion coming up!

Have you ever tried these tricks?  Perhaps you have your own secrets to youthful skin.  I would love to hear your own ideas, I'm sure there are many out there!  I know I'm not alone in this battle to fight off old age!

A Few Easy Recipes

Happy Spring!  This is the time of year when many of you are out in your gardens, preparing and planting and at the end of a long gardening session, I don't know about you but I myself am pooped!  The thought of putting together a complicated meal has no appeal when you are tired and sore and covered in dirt.  So here is a recipe that is so easy it almost makes itself!  It is a recipe that my husband and I love.  We eat it often because it is delicious and so easy and quick to fix.  The prep is easy and it's a breeze to clean up.  It's perfect when you are short on time and want a good, nutritious and satisfying meal.  It's also a great recipe for your teens that might just be learning to cook.


Prep Time: 10 minutes                  Category: Main Dish (Lowfat)                   Servings: 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp. pepper or to taste (we like to double that amount)
1 8oz. nonfat or lowfat sour cream

Directions:  Sprinkle chicken breasts generously with pepper.  Spray nonfat cooking spray in large skillet and brown breasts on medium heat.  Turn to low heat and dollop sour cream over breasts and in middle of pan.  cover and continue cooking until meat is white all the way through.  The sour cream will become a delicious gravy that we like to serve over whole wheat pasta, brown rice, couscous or potatoes.

Per Serving:
Calories: 187   Total Fat:  1.4 grams (7% fat)   Cholesterol: 66mg   Sodium,: 118 mg


I have found a couple of kid-friendly recipes that are fun to make and great to eat!  Have fun with your children in the kitchen and teach them good habits early on.  They will thank you later on!


Baked Broccolini:  A recipe by 8-year-old Katie Helliwell who lives in San Diego, California.  I have not had the fortune of meeting this young cook; instead I found this delicious and simple recipe in “A Taste of Home” magazine, November 2010 edition.  Katie created this recipe on her own at the ripe old age of 8!  Not surprisingly, Katie’s ambition is to be a restaurant chef someday.

Prep/total time: 15 minutes     Yield: 4 servings

¾ lb. broccolini or broccoli spears
2 Tbsp. lemon juice   (remember, freshly squeezed is always best if possible!)
2 Tbsp. olive oil        
½ tsp. salt        
1/8 tsp. pepper

Place broccolini in a greased 15x10 baking pan.  Combine the lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper; drizzle over broccolini and toss to coat.  Bake uncovered at 425 degrees for 10 – 15 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Nutrition Facts: 1 serving equals 97 calories, 7 grams fat, 0 cholesterol, 320 mg. sodium, 7 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 3 grams protein


Molasses cookies with an herbal twist:   I found this wonderful herb-filled cookie recipe in “A Taste of Home” magazine, November 2010 issue, a great issue filled with holiday cooking ideas.  I love this recipe because it’s a twist on an old favorite and chock full of healthy and healing herbs.  I make this recipe with organic flours, butter and sugars for an extra wholesome snack I can feel good about serving to my own grandchildren.  This is a great cookie recipe for the holidays or any time and will be a favorite of kids everywhere who will love to put on their aprons and help!

Prep Time: 40 minutes             Chilling/baking time: 10 minutes per batch                 Yield: 8 dozen

 ¾ cups butter, softened
½ cup each sugar and packed brown sugar
¼ cup molasses
1 egg    (or ¼ cup egg substitute)
1 ½ tsp. minced fresh gingerroot
2-¼ cups all-purpose flour  (you can also use wheat flour or half and half)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon         
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. each ground cloves and cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. each salt and ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. each ground white pepper, cardamom and coriander
¾ cup turbinado (washed, raw) sugar

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in molasses, egg and ginger.  Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, cloves, cayenne, salt, nutmeg, white pepper, cardamom and coriander; Ad to creamed mixture and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 ½ hours or until easy to handle.  Roll into ½” ball and then roll in turbinado sugar.  Place 3” apart on greased baking sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until set.  Cool for 2 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.  Store in an airtight container.

Nutrition Facts: 1 cookie equals 41 calories, 2 grams fat, 6 mg. cholesterol, 28 mg. sodium, 7 grams carbohydrate, trace fiber, trace protein

Diabetic exchange equals ½ starch

Here is a fun recipe that makes a delightful, healthy and delicious spread for bread, toast, crackers and anything else you can dream up.  I love to eat mine by the spoonful all by itself!

Herbal Honey

Fill a mason jar half to completely full with the desired herb.  Some great tasting herbs that work especially well for herbal honey are:

Hyssop, Elecampane, Garlic,  Ginger, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage, Horseradish, Sweet Marjoram, Oregano, Spearmint, Thyme, Rosehips and Rose Petals.  Use your imagination and whatever is growing in your garden!

Next, fill the remainder of the jar with honey and mix well by stirring and inverting jar several times.   Let the herbal honey sit for 3-7 days, then refrigerate.  This honey will keep for a very long time, if not forever!
Besides making a great spread this honey will make a wonderful marinade as well!  Enjoy!

Herbal Butter

Herbal butter is another great easy herbal project that will liven up any food you use it on or cook with.

Start by softening 1/2 cup of butter to room temperature.  Mix the butter with 1/2 cup of Olive Oil.  Finely mince the herbs you have selected and mix well into butter either by hand or with a blender.  Herbal butter stored in the fridge will last for about 2 weeks and if kept in the freezer is good for 2 months.  Some great herbs to use for herbal butter are:

Mushrooms and Shallots, Rosemary and Garlic, Dandelion leaves, Orange Zest and Catnip, dried Basil and Pine Nuts, wild berries and honey, and one of our favorites, Garlic and grated fresh Parmesan Cheese.

Have fun experimenting with different herbs and flavor combinations.  It won't take you long to come up with your own signature herbed butter that your whole family will love and ask for time and time again!